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Vitamin E: What are its effects on eczema?

Eczema is a non-contagious dermatosis that can significantly impact the quality of life of those who suffer from it. It is particularly responsible for red patches on the skin and intense itching. Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, could vitamin E help alleviate the symptoms of eczema? Discover in this article what the scientific literature has to say.

Summary
Published April 19, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 6 min read

Vitamin E: Benefits for People with Eczema?

Eczema is a widespread inflammatory skin disease. In France, it is estimated to affect 2 million adults, which represents nearly 4% of the population. This dermatosis, which progresses in flare-ups, is characterized by pronounced skin dryness and redness, accompanied by severe itching. Fortunately, solutions exist today to alleviate and space out the flare-ups. In addition to the daily application of an emollient care on the skin, dermatologists can prescribe creams based on cortisone to relieve eczema flare-ups.

Concurrently, research continues in the pursuit of new treatments, either as supplements or replacements for topical corticosteroids. Among the options being studied, vitamin E appears to be emerging as a relevant supplement in cases of eczema. Indeed, this fat-soluble molecule possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in combating this skin condition. Naturally found in sebum, it protects its constituents from lipid peroxidation, a reaction that leads to the creation of compounds harmful to the skin. Moreover, this change in sebum composition damages the hydrolipidic film, which is already fragile on atopic skin. The antioxidant effects of vitamin E also allow it to neutralize free radicals before they activate certain nuclear factors and lead to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules involved in the pathogenesis of eczema.

Furthermore, some studies have shown that vitamin E can inhibit the activities of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX-5). The former is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of arachidonic acid into PGE2, an inflammatory mediator that causes painful sensations and itching. LOX-5, on the other hand, catalyzes the synthesis of certain leukotrienes, lipids that exacerbate eczema symptoms by recruiting other pro-inflammatory cells.

These various mechanisms of action have led several scientists to study the tangible effects of vitamin E on eczema during clinical trials, conducted with volunteers affected by this skin condition. Most of the studies were carried out by comparing the SCORAD (Scoring Atopic Dermatitis) before and after treatment. This clinical tool, developed in 1993, is today the most widely used worldwide to assess the severity of atopic dermatitis. It takes into account a broad set of criteria, including the severity of lesions, the intensity of itching, and the impact of the disease on sleep, daily activities, and mood. The table below summarizes the results obtained from 4 studies.

StudyActive Ingredient(s)Number of patientsDuration of the StudyResults
CLAYTON & al. (1989)Vitamin E (402 mg/day) and Selenium (600 μg/day)203 monthsNo improvement in eczema
MENCHINI & al. (2002)Vitamin E (268 mg/day)508 monthsSignificant improvement in eczema symptoms for 80% of patients
MIRSHAFIEY & al. (2011)Vitamin E (402 mg/day) and Vitamin D (40 μg/day)112 monthsAverage reduction of SCORAD by 64.3%
MIRSHAFIEY & al. (2011)Vitamin E (402 mg/day)112 monthsAverage reduction of SCORAD by 35.7%
MOHSEN & al. (2015)Vitamin E (268 mg/day)354 monthsAverage reduction of SCORAD by 11.12%

Overall, studies seem to suggest that oral supplementation with vitamin E has positive effects in cases of eczema and can help alleviate symptoms. However, it is important to emphasize that vitamin E cannot lead to a complete remission. Studies clearly show this: the average reduction of the SCORAD did not exceed 40% in cases of taking vitamin E alone. Moreover, the initial work carried out by CLAYTON and his team did not show any effect of vitamin E on eczema, although this may be partly due to the selenium also administered to patients. It would now be interesting for researchers to investigate the effects on eczema of topical application of vitamin E, as this angle of study has not yet been addressed.

If you are suffering from eczema, it is necessary to follow the recommendations of your dermatologist. Furthermore, before starting a vitamin E supplementation, we advise you to discuss it with them beforehand and to certainly not stop the treatment they have prescribed for you.

Sources

  • CLAYTON B. E. & others. The impact of selenium and vitamin E supplementation on atopic dermatitis. Acta Dermato-Venereologica (1989).

  • MENCHINI G. & al. Evaluation of Vitamin E Dietary Intake in the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis: A Study of the Clinical Progression and Assessment of Serum Immunoglobulin E Levels. International Journal of Dermatology (2002).

  • MIRSHAFIEY A. & al. Randomized controlled trial utilizing vitamin E and D supplementation in atopic dermatitis. Journal of Dermatological Treatment (2011).

  • MOHSEN S. & al. Effects of oral vitamin E on the treatment of atopic dermatitis: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences (2015).

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